The Planning Board held two hearings at its meeting Monday, the most widely discussed being the Connelly Farm special permit for an Open Space and Landscape Preservation Development (OSLPD) at the corner of Hayden Rowe Street and College Street.
This hearing, chaired by member Fran DeYoung, was a follow-up to a Dec. 7 meeting when a special permit was issued for the property. The developer, Ron Nation, was granted a waiver for the 100-foot buffer zone at that time, as the proposed access road encroaches within 20 feet of the corner of an abutter’s property.
Joe Marquedant presented the plan on behalf of the applicant. The plan for the nine lots on the 33-acre property follows the previous plan with a couple of exceptions. There now is a catch basin at the southwestern portion of the property at the Hayden Rowe side to accommodate for runoff issues because of the steepness of the land at the center of the development. There also is a catch basin that previously was planned at the northeast corner.
The wetlands are at the property’s center at its height, which is what necessitated this change, he explained.
“We set up the flows and the basin sizes to handle the flow and the rate of flow at pre-development levels,” Marquedant said. He noted there is a series of drainage pipes and catch basins that lead to these two basins.
The basins will require Conservation Commission approval, and the application has been filed, Marquedant added.
Vegetated swales were recommended rather than the proposed drainage structures. There also was a concern about the soil beneath the basins to make sure there is proper drainage.
Principal planner John Gelcich explained that the special permit would have to be amended to accommodate some of the changes required, particularly lot frontage, because the subdivision wouldn’t be compliant with zoning requirements.
“The whole OSLPD bylaw really is tied to the zoning bylaw,” he said. “Practically speaking, if the board grants a waiver, it needs to be written down somewhere that the board granted the waiver. What would that be written down in if not the special permit? You can’t just write a letter that’s tied to no process.”
Marquedant said there is “some flexibility in the design” which may allow for modifications to allow the plan to be adjusted. There are a couple of lots where it would not make the design look uniform. The bulb at the cul-de-sac at the center of the property is what creates the challenge of creating a box-like front yard.
The hearing was continued to June 21.
Eversource gets extension on LNG work
The Planning Board approved a request for a one-year extension on an earth removal permit for Eversource Energy at 52 and 55 Wilson St. This is for the ongoing construction at the liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on the property for a liquefaction facility.
The original permit was issued in January 2019 but wasn’t enacted until that June. Construction is ongoing, and the majority of the earth removal has been done. All earth for site foundation has been done, but there may need to be some groundwork for tree plantings.
Gelcich said that earth removal permits may be extended for one-year increments. He walked the site and said that it is in compliance with the current permit.
Chair Gary Trendel asked if it was only the amount of time that needed to be adjusted or the amount of material, and was told it was solely because of time constraints.
Board discusses growth issues
In other Planning Board news, development and traffic were two of the main issues the Planning Board debated after having reviewed the 64-page report submitted by the Growth Study Committee at the previous meeting. The board talked about prioritizing the committee’s recommendations and noting which of them they could work on later in the year.
Muriel Kramer, who serves on both committees, said the report presented “starting points” for the board and Town Hall professionals to work on. One initiative she would like to see come out of the study is streamlining the zoning bylaws to make them more “user friendly.”
“It will take some political planning and some exchange with the public to sort of tee up the conversation,” she said, “and get people interested in participating in the conversation because zoning is such a sensitive topic.”
Higher-density housing, both downtown and near the train station, could “bring about diversity in many ways,” she added.
“The Zoning Advisory Committee has struggled with the competing priority and different views on higher density housing and how to make it happen responsibly,” added Mary Larson-Marlowe. “I do think it’s something that needs a larger forum.”
Jane Moran mentioned that traffic and speeding on side roads are two growing concerns that could be analyzed.
“Do you think it’s more a function of safety or that it’s more people concerned about getting from Point A to Point B?” asked chair Gary Trendel.
“I think it’s multi-pronged,” Moran replied.
“Traffic is a really big issue to tackle,” noted Gelcich. “And you really need to pinpoint what aspect of traffic you want to tackle or else you will get everything about traffic.”
He suggested having a public forum that could then narrow it down into segments such as road traffic, alternative transportation and public transportation. Working with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) would be a way to structure this.
Rob Benson said that in 2019, Town Meeting members didn’t want development downtown because it would increase traffic and schools. But now there seems to be “a premise that growth is going to be happening, so we’re just going to have to control it.”
Trendel suggested waiting until later in the year to focus on this so that the board could focus on its three major initiatives for the year: affordable housing, open space and connectivity.